Don’t forget

Sunday went well.
My sister Patty
took Dad to Muncie.
He lived, worked, and
raised his family there
for fifty years.
Sunday night something went wrong.
When he awakened Monday, he could not see.
He did not know forward from backward,
left from right.
Patty called me at my office, concerned.
After we talked,
she held the phone to Dad’s ear.
“I’m not feeling so good,” he whispered.
Then he said something to me
that he had never said before,
something that touched me:
“Jim, please don’t forget me.”

Two days later, Dad is doing better.
But as his mind slows and narrows,
as his physical needs become more basic,
so do his emotional needs.
Child-like almost, he gently requests,
“Please don’t forget me
over here in a different city.”
What he really means is
he’s in a whole different world now,
and he doesn’t want to be there,
to travel there, all by himself.
He wants to feel our presence,
emotionally if not physically,
in spirit if not in person.
He wants to know he is with us,
and we are with him.

I believe that’s what
those in our care steadily ask
at the most fundamental level:
“As you live your own life,
please don’t forget me.
As you step toward your distinct future,
please remember me and my future.
When you’re away,
sometimes think of me here.
When others have your attention,
please hold a small place in your mind
for me too.”
Seldom do our care partners
want to hold us back from life.
They do not want their unavoidable restrictions
to become ours.
They want simply not to be
left entirely behind, entirely alone.

Now, in dimming light,
our father makes a simple request,
and as he does so,
he speaks for people like him everywhere:
“Will you keep including me
with your mind,
in your heart,
next to your soul?”
That’s all.
That’s everything.

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